bronze bulldog statue at Dean College Commencement Ceremony

Dean College is honored to announce that the keynote speaker at its 158th Commencement Ceremony on May 18, 2024 will be Michael J. Bobbitt, the Executive Director of the Mass Cultural Council, who will also be receiving an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts, honoris causa. Additionally, Dean College will be presenting Former U.S. Ambassador to Croatia and Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations in Afghanistan, Peter W. Galbraith, with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.

“This will be the second year in Dean College’s history to award honorary degrees to individuals who epitomize The Dean Difference, by caring for their community and making a positive impact in this world,” said President Kenneth Elmore. “We are so honored to bestow this distinction upon Mr. Bobbitt and Ambassador Galbraith, who have demonstrated a passionate commitment to the arts and public service throughout their illustrious careers.”

Michael BobbittBobbitt is a theater director, choreographer, and playwright who has dedicated his professional career to arts leadership. He joined Mass Cultural Council as Executive Director in February 2021, and is the highest-ranking cultural official in Massachusetts state government. Upon joining, he was invited to serve on the Board of Directors for the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA). Bobbitt previously served as Artistic Director of the New Repertory Theatre in Watertown, MA; immediately prior to this, he held the same position at the Adventure Theatre-MTC in Maryland for 12 years.

Bobbitt’s management and arts management training includes participation in Executive Education at Harvard Kennedy School, the National Arts Strategies Chief Executive Program, and Cornell University’s Diversity and Inclusion Certification Program. In 2023, he completed YW Boston’s signature leadership program, LeadBoston. He has served as an Associate Professor of Theater at Boston Conservatory at Berklee and Howard University and served on the Board of Directors for the New England Foundation for the Arts. Also in 2023, Bobbitt received the prestigious Kennedy Center Gold Medallion in recognition of his commitment to the arts and educational theater. He has recently been appointed by Massachusetts Governor, Maura Healey, to serve on her Advisory Council on Black Empowerment and the newly formed Cultural Policy Development Advisory Council.

Bobbitt was recognized last year by Get Konnected! as one of Boston’s Most Influential Men of Color and was invested into the College of Fellows of the American Theatre – one of the highest honors bestowed upon American theater professionals. He is also the recipient of MassOpera’s Action Bearing Award and OrigiNation Cultural Arts Center’s Sojourner Truth Award. He was recognized by Speak Out for his efforts to build a more inclusive cultural sector and as one of the Boston Business Journal’s 2023 Power 50 Movement Makers.

“I have dedicated my professional life to the arts, arts management, advancing equity, and celebrating community and culture,” said Bobbitt. “To be recognized in this manner by Dean College, a school known for its programs in the arts and dance, and to receive an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts, is so humbling. It inspires me to work harder. I know that Dean dares its students to follow their passions, incorporate creativity in every aspect of life, and I am truly honored to have been chosen for this recognition.”

GalbraithGalbraith is a former U.S. diplomat, author, and humanitarian. From 1993 to 1998, he served as the first U.S. Ambassador to Croatia, where he mediated and signed the 1995 Erdut Agreement that ended the Croatian War of Independence. In 1993, he secured the release of 5,000 Bosnian prisoners held in brutal conditions and in 1995 he rode on a tractor with fleeing Serb refugees to protect them from an angry Croatian mob. In 2000 and 2001, he was a cabinet member in East Timor’s first transitional government, successfully negotiating the Timor Sea Treaty that more than doubled impoverished East Timor’s revenues. In 2009, Galbraith was an Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations serving as Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan.

While working for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the 1980s, Galbraith uncovered and documented Iraq’s genocidal Anfal campaign against the Kurds, leading the U.S. Senate to unanimously pass comprehensive sanctions on Iraq. He was in Iraqi Kurdistan during the 1991 Kurdish uprising against Saddam Hussein, and his video, television interviews, and written reports provided the first account of the uprising’s collapse and led to the U.S. decision to create a safe haven for the Kurds. Pakistan awarded Galbraith its highest civilian award for his work to promote human rights and democracy in that country during the Zia dictatorship. In her memoir, Pakistani Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto, credits Galbraith with saving her life and securing her release from three years imprisonment under harsh conditions.

In his post diplomatic life, Galbraith served two terms as a Vermont State Senator from 2011 to 2015 and was a candidate for Governor of Vermont in 2016. He is the author of two critically acclaimed books on the Iraq War, including the bestselling, “The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End.” In addition to his books, Galbraith has written extensively for a range of publications including The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Guardian. Additionally, Galbraith is Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, the research arm of the Council for a Livable World. He earned a B.A. degree from Harvard College, an M.A. from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center.

Most recently, Galbraith has been traveling to war torn northeast Syria to reunite the young Yazidi women, who were kidnapped by the Islamic State and used as sex slaves, with the children they bore in captivity and were forced to leave behind when they were freed.

“I chose a career in public service because I saw it as a path to make a real difference in the lives of others,” said Galbraith. “I especially appreciate receiving this honorary doctorate from Dean College, an institution that places such a strong emphasis on service to others. I am even more honored by the thought that this year’s graduates will be going forth to do their part to make our world better.”

Bobbitt and Galbraith will be presented with their honorary degrees at Dean College’s 158th Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 18, 2024, at Dean College, 99 Main Street, Franklin, MA.

“The Class of 2024 graduated from high school during the height of the COVID pandemic and sadly, did not get the opportunity to be in-person for their graduation festivities,” said President Elmore. “That is why this year’s commencement ceremony holds special significance for this graduating class; and we are very excited to give them the celebration they so richly deserve for their perseverance and achievement.”

Reverend Dr. Ray Hammond, co-founder and pastor of Boston’s Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church, will deliver the invocation. Reverand Bob Poitras, pastor of the Parish of Saint Mary in Franklin, MA, will deliver the benediction.

The ceremony will begin at 11:00 a.m. on the front lawn of Dean Hall, along Awpie Way, and will occur rain or shine. Livestream options will be available for graduates, family, and friends who are unable to attend in person.

Learn more about Dean College Commencement.